DURING the initial weeks of the lockdown, Shane Kingston recharged the batteries.
Turning 23 in August, the Douglas club man had a hectic start to 2020, albeit in the best possible sense. He was outstanding for UCC under the management of his uncle, Tom Kingston, as they retained the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup.
Shane was UCC's top-scorer from play and prominent in every game. While the Cork hurlers had a disappointing league, his College form held up there, including excellent goals against Waterford and Limerick.
"I was going well in the league and the Fitz alright but a break doesn't do anyone any harm to refresh and refocus," he explained in a Zoom interview with journalists to mark getting the Electric Ireland GAA Higher Education Rising Star Hurling Player of the Year trophy.
"It's so hectic going from Fitzgibbon to league you're out four or five nights a week, loving it obviously, but that bit of time off gives you time to relax, allow the body to recover a small bit. You're working on prehab then so you won't pick up injuries. You also get to work on stuff you wouldn't normally have a chance to. It's not the ideal scenario, but it's not the worst."
He's very much in a GAA household. His father Kieran is back in his second stint as Rebel bainisteoir while his older brother is a very accomplished hurler and footballer too. Being able to puck around with Conor was a huge advantage and Shane was using wall-ball drills to keep his eye in as well.
"I wouldn't normally have been in the alley too much but there's that training room in Páirc Uí Chaoimh so I'd have been in there every few days alright. [In lockdown] I was using the alley the whole time. I was going for my sanity really when you're so used to getting up and getting ready for training. In some ways, you'd be training more [to fill the time] but not as intensely."
Naturally, there was genuine concern for some time that there wouldn't be any more meaningful action this season, for club or county. Now Kingston will pull on the Douglas geansaí again in late July or early August with an 11-week window for local championships before the return to a revamped inter-county season from mid-October.
"For the first while, we thought we'd be back after two months, then we went into the unknown and most people thought we'd have nothing.
"In recent weeks, we've known we'd have something to look forward to and it would have been a disaster if the whole year was written off."
It's a strange situation, in terms of the return to training, with GAA pitches still shut until June 29. Even then, groups of no more than 10 are permitted to meet under strict guidelines for non-contact sessions. July 20 and Phase Four of the government roadmap out of Covid-19 should bring GAA players closer to normal.
Kingston believes the majority are relatively sharp, though match-fitness is something else.
"There's player accountability because the majority of fellas were tipping away doing their own running and gym work and hurling. In 11 days of contact you could pick up a lot of niggles, so it's not ideal, but it's better than not having anything. Hopefully, it's only for the one year and we'll get through it."
The classy forward's only major injury was a leg break in 2015 that ruled him out for that summer with the Cork minors. He returned later that year, springing off the bench to hit the scores that snatched the Premier 1 minor county crown for Douglas from Sars.
"Apart from breaking my leg I've had nothing, touch wood. With muscle injuries, normally you'd be saying it's only two or three weeks but that could be your whole championship gone then. Staying injury-free is hugely important given what was going on."